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Peter Hews Peterhews at protonmail.com
Sun Sep 12 12:29:21 BST 2021

On Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 at 00:36, Raymond Collins <rcrcoll6 at gmail.com> wrote:

> I've seen renaissance paintings of women doing sewing, weaving and
> needlework. I suspect this pretty much crossed most of the social classes.
> The production of clothing, bedding and tapestries. The Bayeux Tapestry was
> probably stitched by women.
Not "probably," it's on record that it was, like all such work.

Cloth production is the most traditionally "women's work."  The stereotype goes back at least to Homeric times: in the episode of the Labours of Hercules when he is enslaved to the Queen of the Amazons (one that, oddly enough, didn't make it into the Disney movie,) in the model of all such femdom fantasies thereafter she puts him in women's clothes and sets him to women's work: but in that setting it is weaving.

In Anglo-Saxon the word "man" was unisex - best translated as "person" - so they distinguished the sexes as "wipman og wifman," literally "person who bears arms and person who weaves."  "Wife" is derived from "wifman."  In the 14th Century the radical followers of John Ball sang of the time "when Adam delved and Eve span."

Like so many occupations, weaving and tailoring became men's work when the status of those jobs increased.  But spinning is so iredeemably dull and laborious that it was only taken away from women when it was mechanised.  An unmarried woman is refered to as a "spinster" because in pre-industrial times spinning was the commonest (respectable) way for a woman without a husband to earn a living.

Peter Hews

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